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Cookie or Talk Trigger? Carstar Speaker Explains


The warm chocolate chip cookies that DoubleTree hotels hand out are "an extraordinary talk trigger," said Jay Baer, keynote speaker at the Carstar annual conference June 11.

“Nobody here has ever said, Hey, let me tell you about this perfectly adequate experience I just had,” said Jay Baer, a speaker at the Carstar annual convention in Chicago last week. Rather, owners should try to generate a “talk trigger.”

What’s that? “A talk trigger is an operational choice you made in your shop on purpose that creates customer conversations,” he said.

Or put another way, it’s a story your customers will tell about your business and hence become your brand ambassador. Examples from Baer, a dynamic speaker who had the crowd roaring when he imitated for a good two minutes a cat coughing up a hairball, getting down on his knees and hacking and gasping, included these:

There’s the surgeon who gives each of his patients a many-tooled, silver engraved knife after each procedure. It’s engraved: “The Vasectomy Clinic. DrSnip.com.” Every time a customer pulls it out, to open a beer at the golf course, say, all the wives spot it and voila! the surgeon has more patients.

There’s the top-rated locksmith in New York City who, after he re-keys your apartment, offers a free security audit of the place. One customer tweeted she’d be willing to lose her keys again just to have him come back. (Also he’s very handsome, Baer said.)

There’s the DoubleTree by Hilton that hands each guest a warm chocolate chip cookie, baked in an oven installed behind each front desk. “Doubletree will hand out approximately 75,000 cookies a day,” Baer said. “I did a big research project on this to discover how much word of mouth does this create? 22,500 stories told every day. That is an extraordinary talk trigger.”

“Same is lame. The more you try to fit in the more your customers will tune out. We want to do something that they actually notice, so much so that it compels them to tell somebody else about it,” Baer said.

He said there are four types of talk triggers: Generosity. Speed. Usefulness. Empathy. Regarding speed, as in speed of response to customers, he related a cautionary tale. There was a tweet from a customer at the Baltimore airport. “I’m trapped in an Amtrak elevator. Help?”it said. Amtrak responded: “We are sorry to hear that. Are you still in the elevator?” The problem was, Baer said, it was 205 days later.

Baer has founded five companies and is the president of Convince & Convert and the co-author of “Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth,” among other books.

Carstar is North America’s largest network of independently owned and operated collision repair facilities with more than 650 locations in 35 states and 10 Canadian provinces. A part of the Driven Brands family of automotive aftermarket franchise brands, Carstar celebrated its 30thanniversary this year, at its annual convention last week at the Chicago Hilton.


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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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